Monday, October 19, 2009

Heartland Irish, Canadian Klezmer, and Western Swing

An Spealadoir

Different regions in Ireland have their own ways of playing music, from east Clare to west Kerry to northern Donegal to the Oriel to mention only a few. Though it’s a much larger country in physical space, America sometimes has its own regional accents too, from Maine and Vermont to Texas, to Montana and Colorado and Boston. That region called the midwest, which among other places includes Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, and Illinois, nurtures irish music with its own brand of grit, edge, and energy, formed both by the confluence of Irish communities there and the interaction with musics of other immigrants , the prairie landscape, the growing cities, and the weather.

If you’d like to hear what all this sounds like translated into traditional Irish music, give a listen to the latest recording from the group Bua. It’s called An Spealadoir, or the Harvester. The five men who comprise the band offer fifteen tracks that give you the idea you could just be sitting in at a really good session with them of an evening. Crisp playing, drive, energy, collaboration, really well done musicianship. Each of these men -- Jackie Moran, Chris Bain, Sean Gavin, Brian OhAirt, and Brian Miller -- has worked with top musicians including Liz Carroll, Martin Hayes, Cathie Ryan, Aoife Clancy, and others. To keep company like that you have to be very good indeed , and hearing all five men make music together is good stuff. Tracks of note include The Shepherd/The Boyne Water, Dobbin's Flowery Vale, and the Casey’s Pig set.

It’s not really quite such a stretch to move from that lively Irish session to the idea a Texas dance hall with Hot Club of Cowtown and their latest release, Wishful Thinking.. This trio’s music is based in western swing. and gypsy music. It’s the first time Elana James, Whit Smith, and Jake Irwin have gotten together to record in five years, and time has only made them better at what they do, which is bring life and sparkle to a tried and true style, keeping it both fresh and at the same time true to its history. They’ve added drums for this for this trip, too, courtesy of Damien Llanes. Tracks include The Long Way Home, Columbus Stockade Blues, and Reunion.

While we’re on the subject of adventurous bands with new releases, Postcards from Beyond the Pale is worth your listening too. They are based in Toronto and their music is based in the traditions of Eastern Europe. Klezmer music could be said to be the root from which they branch out in Eastern, North American, Yiddish and Israeli directions here. Much their music is composed by members of the band, who hail from various points around the globe. The six men have worked together for more than ten years, and one has the feeling that they are still having a great time exploring the possibilities of the music they’re creating. Notable cuts include Katarina, Anthem, and Turkish Delight.

you may also want to see

Crooked Still: Still Crooked

Danu: One Night Stand

malinky: flower & iron

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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